Australian Test legend Neil Harvey has admitted that he still feels responsible for Don Bradman missing out on his Test average of 100, but perhaps Harvey did Bradman a favour after all.
In one of the most amazing cricketing stories, when Bradman took guard in his final Test innings at The Oval on 14 August 1948, he only needed to score four runs to ensure his Test average would end up above 100. Instead, he was bowled by England’s Eric Hollies for a fourth-ball duck, which was almost unthinkable for the man who had changed the face of cricket with his prolific batting.
That last innings duck left Bradman’s Test batting average on 99.94, which is still the highest career average by a long way.
While Harvey had no hand in what happened in Bradman’s final innings, he did potentially prevent Bradman from achieving the milestone in the previous Test, at Headingley, when Bradman ended the match unbeaten on 173 after Harvey had hit the winning boundary to give Australia a seven-wicket win and a 3-0 series lead.
Harvey admits that, to this day, he still feels that Bradman would have scored the winning four had Harvey not beaten him to it and, in so doing, lifted his average past 100.
‘That four at Leeds makes me feel very guilty. It’s entirely my fault Bradman didn’t average 100 in Test cricket. If he would have scored those four runs instead of me, he’d have got there,’ Harvey said.
‘I’m quite willing to take the blame. But I didn’t know he was going to get a duck in his last Test match … nobody knew Bradman needed four runs at Leeds; nobody knew he needed four runs when he played in his last Test at The Oval,’ added Harvey.
‘Statistics were never mentioned back then; there was no television and no one in the press seemed to know. When the poor bloke was bowled, that was it. He wasn’t going to get another chance because we dismissed England for 52 in their first innings.’
Australia scored 389 in their first innings, with Arthur Morris scoring a brilliant 196, and went on to win by an innings and 149 runs, thereby denying Bradman a final Test innings. However, perhaps Harvey shouldn’t have been so hard on himself these past 70 years.
After all, if Harvey hadn’t hit the winning boundary at Headingley, there is always the chance that Bradman could have been dismissed for 173, instead of ending not out on 173. If that had happened, and if Bradman had still gone out for a duck at The Oval, then his Test average would have ended on a far less impressive 98.53.
An average of 99.94 certainly has a better ring to it than 98.53, so arguably Harvey did The Don a favour after all!
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